Ah, the holidays. That lovely time when we spend nearly as much money as we earn in a year, cram a month's worth of shopping into two days, and spend more time traveling to see family than we actually see family.
We love it!
My wife and I live away from our families. That means traveling for hours. With a child. The greatest test of patience known to man. It's costly, time consuming, and usually induces facial tics before it's over. We know it'll only get crazier once Baby #2 arrives next year.
Kidding aside, we look forward to this time of year like no other. We both recall our youthful holidays with joy and want to provide the same memories for our kids. But the holidays test our well-honed routine.
Here's what we've learned to ease the torture, stay sane and maintain flexibility:
1. Prepare. Gone are the days of last-minute packing. When we travel, it's like taking a Broadway show on the road — minus the roadies. Knowing what to pack and how to pack it is an art form.
2. Lose your inhibitions. Before kids, I would cringe if I saw a Dad singing in public. Now, I'll belt out a song like I'm on "American Idol" if it will keep my son from having a public meltdown. It's not just singing, though. It's being silly. My wife and I much prefer laughter to screaming.
3. Time matters. When we fly, we don't book a flight that leaves at the crack of dawn. We pick a flight in the mid-morning so we give ourselves room for error.
4. It's all about the apps. When we fly or drive long distances, our last resort for entertainment are our smartphones. There are so many applications: musical instruments, puzzles, painting that can keep a child quiet and engaged.
5. Expect the unexpected. The one thing you can control is how you react. Keep your cool and your kids will, too.
6. Try to keep the routine. Our son goes to bed before 8, so we make sure he goes to bed as close to 8 as possible. It's tough to tear him away from grandparents and well-meaning aunts and uncles, but everyone will sleep better if the little guy is rested.
7. Try to replicate home. We bring several items — a sleep sheep, soothing cd's, his blankets — so he feels like he's home. My wife also believes in putting an article of her clothing near his bed or pack-n-play so he can smell her if he feels uncomfortable in a strange place.
8. Reassure him. There are so many new people and new places to visit. Before our trip, we show our son lots of photos of the family members he'll see, Skype with them, and remind him that he'll soon be visiting Poppy and Gramsy and sleeping in a new room for a few days.
9. Be firm but chill out. So what if our son skips a nap one afternoon or goes to bed past his bedtime? We need to be flexible. I remember reading that occasionally missing a nap or pushing a bedtime is fine as long as it doesn't become habitual. We simply try to get back on schedule the next day.
10. Keep memories alive. It can be a letdown after all the hoopla is over and we return home. We try to relive the vacation by looking at photos, sharing stories of our experiences, and keeping journals of our memories.
This post was included in the Traveler's Show & Tell blog carnival.